This initiative gives students the opportunity to work in an interdisciplinary setting to provide services to clients. Courtroom litigation may be where many of our cases end up, but to get there, advocacy, negotiation and client development work is needed. There are a lot of things students expect from law school, such as research and writing, but there are things they might not expect, such as navigating the web of bureaucracy and administrative hurdles that are set up in our society.
– Prof. Anne Schroth, Director of the Pediatric Advocacy Initiative
Pediatric Advocacy Clinic
The Pediatric Advocacy Clinic, a key component of the Pediatric Advocacy Initiative, addresses legal issues that impact the health of low-income children and their families. Begun in fall 2004, the clinic gives Michigan Law students the opportunity to practice law in a unique, interdisciplinary medical-legal collaborative
The PAI practices at both the federal and state level—in courts, administrative agencies, and local school districts. Student participation can occur at any stage of litigation—from conducting initial pre-filing discovery to representing a client in a hearing to post-trial motions and appeals.
Some cases are directly related to a patient's health, while others more indirectly improve a family's situation, and by extension, ease the strain on an already stressed family structure. Students may find themselves preventing a landlord from evicting a mother with two kids, prosecuting the wrongful denial of food assistance to a working family, or obtaining a personal protection order for a 16-year-old pregnant woman.
A central tenet to the medical-legal partnership model, multidisciplinary advocacy might mean attending meetings with teachers, administrators, and opposing counsel in special education cases, or ghost writing a letter for a health care provider to keep a client's electricity from being shut off. Sometimes, it's as simple as taking the time to do a little Internet research on a child's medical condition in order to ask the right questions when we meet a client for the first time.
A semester with PAI is not just for student attorneys interested in a career in poverty law, or even for those interested in direct client services. For students who might be interested in impact litigation or policy work at some point in their careers, PAI is a great place to see how the current law works (or doesn't)—particularly for students interested in women's, children's, or immigrants' rights.
Links to Medical-Legal Partnerships Across the Country
National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership
Health Law Partnership
Project Heal at Kennedy Krieger Institute
Podcast: Listen to physicians from across the U.S. talk about how medical-legal partnerships positively impact their patients and clinical practice.